No, Facebook’s Messenger App Isn’t Stealing All Your Data

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Facebook has been pushing users into its Messenger app instead of sending private messages from within the Facebook app, and the permissions Messenger wants sound pretty ominous. The terms of use make it look as if Facebook can use the Messenger app to copy your address book, send email and text messages to your contacts without your knowledge, and even use your smartphone's camera and mic to spy on you.

Facebook's Messenger app isn't spying on you or stealing your personal dataFacebook's Messenger app isn't spying on you or stealing your personal data

This latest round of "don't trust Facebook" started when the social networking service began actively pushing mobile users into its Messenger app, and came to a head with a recent Android app update. The new permissions requests seen overly broad, but there's a reason behind them -- and it's exactly what other apps are requesting, too.

Facebook has a help page that details each of the permission requests and why those requests are being made.

Using your smartphone's camera and microphone This isn't a move to spy on what you're saying, listen in on conversations, or secretly capture photos and video of whatever you're doing. Messenger needs these permissions to access the camera and mic when you snap photos or video in-app, and to record audio messages or make in-app voice calls.

Calling phone numbers Facebook doesn't have any plans to cold call your friends with targeted ads. Messenger needs your OK to dial if you ever tap a friend's phone number in-app so it can initiate the call.

Text messaging Messenger needs permission to send you text messages because adding a phone number to your account requires a verification system. Sending you an SMS message is how that happens.

Address book access Facebook doesn't want access to your contacts so it can send your friends ads. Granting Messenger access to your contacts simply lets you access contact information from within the app.

Facebook has already shown that it's fine playing fast and loose with our privacy, so if you don't want to trust the company there are already plenty of reasons to do so. Messenger, however, isn't giving Facebook any more information about you that the company doesn't already have.

If you're concerned about what Facebook and the Messenger app are collecting from your personal life, you can block access to your iPhone's microphone, camera, and more, by launching the Settings app and tapping Privacy. If you're uber-paranoid, maybe it's time to delete the apps from your iPhone.

[Some image elements courtesy Shutterstock]

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Aaron Fothergill

It is an absolutely rubbish app though (and the FB one does some pretty awful CPU and battery wastage when it’s in the background) and there’s no need for Facebook to have split it off to be another app.

When the FB app finally refused to let me read messages from it, that was the hint I needed that I might as well delete the FB app and just use Facebook from the webpage. Works better than the app in most cases (other than the odd video), I get messaging, can see my ‘other’ inbox and can even edit my sites from it, so I don’t need their *Pages app either.

Bit of a backwards move from Facebook that points out just how unnecessary their apps are.

Lee Dronick

The outrage is a symptom of the mistrust people have in Facebook.

Lee Dronick

See today’s Joy of Tech comic, the subject is Facebook’s messenger:


Sorry, I dont have much of an appetite for articles defending Facebook. Even though there may be perfectly good reasons behind the permissions their Messenger app requests, that does not change the fact that this is a company which has repeatedly demonstrated a lack of respect for its users and their privacy.

Particularly nauseating is the repeated use of the phrase “Facebook does not have any plans to… <insert grievous exploitation of user trust>”. As if they haven’t spent the last several years modifying their terms of use and privacy policy to the detriment of it’s users.

If anything people should continue to view all of Facebook’s actions with an increasing level of scrutiny and suspicion, not less.

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